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AMC Chief Scientist promotes new ideas

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Stephenie Wade
  • Headquarters Air Mobility Command
Most people don't know that Air Mobility Command's Chief Scientist, Dr. Donna C. Senft, is one of three female Chief Scientists assigned to an Air Force Major Command.

As the command's chief scientist, she is the principal advisor for the commander on science and technical issues, and she works with personnel throughout AMC on technological enhancement of the command's capabilities.

"Through her scientific counsel, technical advice and guidance, AMC will become more efficient and better equipped to meet the needs of the warfighter," said Gen. Carlton D. Everhart II, AMC commander. "We couldn't be more excited that Dr. Senft is part of our team."

Senft's more recent assignment was the Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) where she managed a diverse portfolio that included technologies for next-generation space communications, future GPS spacecraft, and GPS-denied navigation. She has a lot of ideas for integrating new technology into the AMC's mission and is working with the AFRL and other agencies to address cyber operations, command and control, and anti-access/area denial challenges, among others.

She said, today there are not too many diversity issues in the realm of science, even though women comprise only about 20 percent of all physicists and 14 percent of engineers.

"There is still the case where if you are going to a meeting of scientists, there won't be too many women in the room, but there will be a few," said Senft. "Today, I don't think there's a problem in the STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] fields because people are generally judged based on what they can bring to the table."

But this wasn't always the case. One of Senft's mentors was her Ph.D. thesis advisor, Professor Gert Ehrlich from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  He also happened to have a name confused with the female name, Gertrude.

"In the late 1940's, when he was applying to an Ivy League school for his Ph. D., he received a letter of denial for the reason that the university did not have facilities to accommodate females. When he wrote back that he was actually a male, he was accepted. So he always had sympathy for female scientists."

Science is all about the ideas you can contribute, and diversity helps, said Senft.

"If someone comes in with a different perspective to a problem, it can result in different approaches to solutions. There are many kinds of diversity in science, such as different technical backgrounds, cultural diversity, and different types of personalities."

Senft's career has spanned both fundamental and applied research, technology transition to Air Force and Department of Defense missions, and scientific and technical management. She has performed research in a number of technical fields and is the author of four patents and numerous technical articles in the areas of friction and wear, nanotechnology, spacecraft power, and surface science.

"As my son and daughter were growing up, I tried to communicate the passion I have for my work," said Senft. "I told them that as a scientist or engineer, you may not become wealthy, but you will always have the opportunity to enjoy earning a living. And . . . they both ended up becoming engineers."